Field is the managing director of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.
Despite what the Supreme Court has asserted, unlimited spending doesn't support democracy or free speech — and Americans know it. That's why more than 80 percent support a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on the influence of big money in our political system. People see how unlimited political spending is undermining representative democracy, distorting our economy and undermining public trust — and they want it to change.
Here's a recent example: Despite receiving cross-partisan support from across New Hampshire (citizen volunteers passed 83 local resolutions across New Hampshire in the lead-up to the statewide legislation) and in the Legislature, a resolution calling on Congress to approve the so-called 28th Amendment was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu on July 11.
What could convince him to oppose the will of his constituents and the Legislature? Opponents of the amendment primarily argue that unlimited political spending strengthens democracy, increasing access to elected office and fostering productive debate, while limiting spending enables the government to limit speech about candidates and officials.
How do these claims hold up? Not very well. While the governor claims the amendment is "part of a national campaign designed to overturn constitutional protections of free speech," the truth is that unlimited spending distorts the principles established by the First Amendment. Let's break down this and other arguments against the amendment.
Organizer: American Promise
In the face of toxic political divisiveness and pay-to-play government, American Promise brings together and empowers Americans of widely varying political viewpoints with a common goal - eliminating the corrupting influence of super PAC and special interest money in politics and securing our rights as equal citizens. Nationwide, we are rising to the challenge, building an unstoppable network and movement, locally and nationally, to pass and ratify a powerful amendment to United States Constitution so that people, not money govern America. Join us at the National Citizen Leadership Conference (NCLC) to see how we can achieve this urgent, historic reform. Come away empowered, knowing that together, we can amplify our message in communities, statehouses and Congress. It's time take on super PACs and special interests to get money out of politics by passing the 28th Amendment.
Location: Hilton Crystal City, 2399 Clark St., Arlington, VA 22202
Clements is president of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.
Faith in our political system is at an all-time low. In a recent poll, a record 89 percent of respondents said they view the government as being run by a few big interests looking out for themselves instead of "for the benefit of all the people." (The figure was at 64 percent a decade ago.) By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe their "vote does not matter because of the influence that wealthy individuals and big corporations have on the electoral process." And 90 percent agree that elected officials are more interested in appealing to campaign donors than addressing the common good.
Americans are right to believe their interests aren't represented in political outcomes. Research shows economic elites and corporations have a dominant impact on policy, but most citizens have virtually no impact. As money from concentrated factions pours into elections in record amounts, voter turnout remains low, as does satisfaction with candidates, elected officials and the direction of the country generally.
While these issues are critical to our nation, options for legislative solutions are limited in light of Supreme Court decisions that have construed the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause as allowing unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals with the financial means to influence elections. Today, whether the spender is Apple (estimated 2018 revenue, $273 billion), its CEO (2018 pay, $120 million), or Jane Smith (annual pay before taxes, $45,000), each "voice" is free to "speak" to voters and candidates by spending money.
Amid mounting concerns about systemic corruption, unequal representation, and undue control of elections and policymaking by powerful wealthy interests, Americans of every political persuasion seek a solution to help ensure political equality for all citizens. Polls and ballot initiatives consistently show extraordinary support among Americans – exceeding 75 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents — for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to empower Congress and the states to regulate money in elections, combat corruption, revise how constitutional rights apply to corporations and secure equal representation.
Now there are 20 states on record saying they would ratify an amendment to the Constitution allowing limits on campaign spending, the most ambitious and emphatic response possible to the oceans of money sloshing through the political system.
The Democratic Senate in New Hampshire voted 14-10 on Thursday, nearly along party lines, to call on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that would effectively negate the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision, by declaring that political giving is not a form of speech covered by the First Amendment.
The vote in Concord means the nascent 28th Amendment now has the support of comfortably more than half the states needed for ratification. It's also important symbolically because almost all the other states are deeply Democratic blue while New Hampshire is very competitive between the parties.